What’s happening now
Alberta reports 5,549 new cases, 30 deaths over seven days
Here are COVID-19 numbers released today by Alberta Health, covering a seven day period from March 29 to April 4:
- The province is reporting 5,549 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, through 21,314 tests completed.
- There are 990 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 26 since March 30. There are 444 people in ICU, a decrease of three since March 30.
- There were another 30 COVID-related deaths reported to Alberta Health Services, bringing the total to 4,104 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 789 deaths reported in Alberta since Jan. 1.
- Alberta’s two-dose vaccination rate for the population age 12 and over is 86.7 per cent.
‘So many bodies piled up’: Hong Kong funeral services overwhelmed by COVID victims
The number of traditional wooden coffins are in short supply in Hong Kong as authorities scramble to add mortuary space in the financial hub’s battle on COVID-19, which is swamping funeral parlours.
“I have never seen so many bodies piled up together,” said funeral director Lok Chung, 37, who has been working round the clock, with about 40 funerals organized in March, up from roughly 15 in an average month.
“I have never seen family members so upset, so disappointed, so helpless,” said Chung, wearing a sober grey suit with a black polo T-shirt.
Since the fifth wave of coronavirus hit this year, Hong Kong has reported more than a million infections and more than 8,000 deaths.
Calls to health line in 2020 reveal desperation of Quebec long-term care home owners
Newly released recordings of phone calls to a Quebec government-run health line in 2020 reveal how desperate the owners of a long-term care home were during the pandemic’s first wave.
The pair of recordings from the owners of the Herron private care home, where 47 people died in spring 2020, were entered into evidence for the coroner’s inquest that is investigating COVID-19 deaths in the province.
In the recordings published today by La Presse, a panicked Samantha Chowieri and her husband call twice to the non-urgent health line, telling a nurse they are seeking a mass testing of residents.
Alberta COVID-19 media update delayed until Thursday
The province will not be delivering its weekly COVID until tomorrow, although Albertans will still be able to find the latest statistics today.
In a tweet, Health Minister Jason Copping said Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is in court today, testifying at a hearing on COVID-19 health measures.
Copping said the usual numbers and data will be posted online at 3:30 p.m.
Experts worry COVID messaging may hinder fourth-dose uptake
Some experts worry government messaging about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic may stymie uptake of fourth vaccine doses.
Eligibility for fourth doses is expanding in some provinces after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended people 70 and over get a second booster.
Ontario is opening up fourth-dose appointments for residents 60 and older starting Thursday, while Quebec will do the same next week and several other provinces are making the shots available to older demographics.
Quebec health director says people will die if state of emergency immediately lifted
Ending Quebec’s state of emergency on Thursday would be the equivalent of killing people, the province’s interim-director of public health warned on Wednesday.
Dr. Luc Boileau made the observation while testifying before a legislative committee in favour of Bill 28, which would prolong certain emergency powers the government has enjoyed for the past two years until Dec. 31, 2022.
The government needs those powers to maintain the efficiency of the province’s heath-care system, Boileau said.
‘COVID is not a cold’ – Germany U-turns on ending mandatory isolation
Germany will not end mandatory isolation for most people who catch COVID-19, the health minister said on Wednesday, reversing course after concerns were raised that lifting quarantine restrictions would suggest the pandemic was over.
“Coronavirus is not a cold. That is why there must continue to be isolation after an infection,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Twitter, adding he had made a mistake by suggesting an end to mandatory quarantine.
Under the existing rules, people with COVID must isolate for at least seven days. Lauterbach suggested last week a shift to a voluntary five-day period of self-isolation with the recommendation of a COVID test at the end of that time.
Hinshaw testifies some personal freedoms had to be limited to protect all Albertans from COVID-19 threat
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health acknowledged Tuesday that the measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic affected individual rights.
But Dr. Deena Hinshaw told a hearing challenging her public health orders that the measures were a “last resort” necessary to protect individuals from the coronavirus and maintain the viability of the health-care system.
Under cross-examination by lawyer Leighton Grey, one of two counsel representing parties challenging the constitutionality of Hinshaw’s orders, the doctor said such measures were needed when voluntary compliance didn’t prevent the spread of the disease.
“With many of the health orders you made you knew, the Government of Alberta knew, that they were limiting or restricting individual freedoms . . . isn’t that so?” Grey asked.
“The last resort was to restrict those freedoms when the ability to mitigate the risk that COVID posed to the population was not possible with the . . . voluntary means that had previously been employed,” Hinshaw said.
More boosters? Vax advisory committee tells province to prepare
Provinces and territories should quickly get ready to offer fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks starting with people over the age of 80 and long-term care residents, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended Tuesday.
NACI strongly recommended a second booster for people between 70 and 79 years of age, and said they may also be offered to people from First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities.
“Preliminary data indicate that a second booster dose provides additional protection, including against severe disease,” the committee reported Tuesday.
In general, a second booster dose should be given 6 months after the patients got their first booster shots, NACI says, though that optimal timeline will need to be weighed against how rampant COVID-19 is at the local level.
The committee also suggests a recent COVID-19 infection should be factored in, since boosters are best offered at least three months after symptom onset or a positive test.
Ontario’s health minister said today that province will announce a plan tomorrow for expanding eligibility for second booster shots.
— The Canadian Press
Hybrid of BA.1 and BA.2, called XE, could be the most transmissible variant yet: WHO
The disclosure of new COVID variants emerging in China and the rise of a potentially more transmissible strain in the U.K. has recast the spotlight on the ongoing risk of the virus, even as health experts say there’s no reason to panic.
The World Health Organization said a hybrid of two omicron strains — BA.1 and BA.2 — that was first detected in the U.K. and dubbed XE could be the most transmissible variant yet. It is estimated to spread 10% more easily than BA.2, which itself was more transmissible than the original omicron famous for its ease of penetration.
Meanwhile in China, which is experiencing its biggest outbreak since Wuhan, authorities have disclosed two novel omicron subvariants that don’t match any existing sequences. It’s unclear if the infections were one-off events of little significance, or if they may be a sign of problems ahead.
Quebec extends mask mandate as new COVID wave spreads in Canada
Quebec will require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces for all of April, delaying a plan to relax the measure by the middle of the month as it and other Canadian provinces face a new COVID-19 wave, a top public health official said on Tuesday.
The province, the second most populous in Canada, will become one of the last parts of North America to continue a mask mandate in public indoor places like stores, with health officials projecting a rise in cases and hospitalizations.
“We do not expect the mask will be needed after the month of April,” Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s interim public health director, told reporters. “But we have to wait and see how the progression of this wave will be.”
Should Canada be worried about a sixth wave of COVID-19? Three experts weigh in
There’s been no official national declaration of a sixth wave of COVID-19, but plenty of chatter and grumblings of one.
It’s hard to get any kind of grasp on exact numbers. There’s an old saying in medicine that if you don’t take a temperature, you can’t find a fever.
With less testing than at virtually any point during the pandemic, “it certainly makes you wonder if the hope was that, by stopping to look for it, it won’t be a problem,” says Montreal infectious diseases specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton. “Except that’s not the way a pandemic virus works.”
Freedom Convoy protester not seriously injured by horse, police watchdog finds
The Ontario police watchdog says a woman who claimed she was injured by a police horse during the “freedom convoy” protest was not hurt seriously enough to warrant an investigation.
The Special Investigations Unit was looking into police behaviour during the large-scale police operation to disperse the protests in downtown Ottawa that gridlocked the city’s downtown for more than three weeks.
The blockades, which at times also shuttered several border crossings, were demanding an end to all COVID-19 mandates, but some protesters also wanted to force the Liberal government out of office.